‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett inspires gay Houston

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Gay actor Jussie Smollett, who helped sex up the blockbuster first season of “Empire,” serenaded Houston fans and dished about his passions, the show and his music ahead of the second season premiere. 

He visited Houston in early September as part of AT&T's Studio Live VIP campaign and delighted fans with “You're So Beautiful” and other songs that debuted on the Fox hit. And that's when Joey Guerra, a gay entertainment writer for the Houston Chronicle, caught up with him. 

He says he's “passionate about what's happening to our country and our children and people of color.”

“That gets to me, literally, more than anything in the world,” he says. “The passion comes when I'm able to do things where I can speak out. I never prayed to be famous. But sometimes I feel like in order to do all the things I want to do, I have to be, just so that somebody can listen.”

With the breakout success of the show – the new season debuts Sept. 23 – you might think that the intensity puts pressure on Smollett. It doesn't. He's still the same guy that enjoys “The Golden Girls” as his guilty pleasure and was influenced by Whitney Houston – like so many gay men. (Smollett came out in March during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.)

Despite so much acclaim, Smollett says he doesn't feel the weight of expectations, he told the Chronicle.

“I probably would – if I wasn't so proud and confident in the work that we've been doing over the past year. I kind of feel like the first season was our 'Off the Wall.' And now, we're in our 'Thriller,' ” Smollett says, referring to Jackson's breakout solo albums.

Smollett's work on “Empire” has also inspired gay Houstonians.

“Jussie's approach to the storyline captivated me,” says Rashad Jones, a stylist and fashion consultant who attended the Houston event. “He helped me stand upright and say, 'So what? This is who I am, and I'll make it with or without you.'”

It's easy to see why.

“There's so much that I want to say. I'll do it on my own time. I do genuinely feel like the 'Empire' music is my music as well,” he says. “True success comes from being happy with what you're doing. And I'm so happy doing what I do. I wake up every single day and I thank God first, my mother second and Lee Daniels third. It's changed my life forever.”

 

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